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Reproductive Rights Advocates Ask Oklahoma Supreme Court to Block Admitting Privileges Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The emergency request comes after a lower court ruled the law could take effect November 1.

Reproductive rights advocates filed an emergency motion Monday with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, asking the state’s highest court to put on hold new anti-choice regulations set to take effect November 1.

The filing comes after Oklahoma County District Court Judge Bill Graves ruled last week that SB 1848, which mandates that all reproductive health-care clinics have a physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital, could take effect.

Attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights filed the emergency motion on behalf of Dr. Larry Burns, a Norman-based abortion provider who provides about 44 percent of the abortions in the state. Burns, according to court filings, has been unable to obtain the required hospital admitting privileges and will likely be forced to stop providing abortions should the law be enforced.

In their motion papers, attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights argue Graves’ order allowing SB 1848 to take effect erred on several fronts, including wrongly, and without any analysis, concluding Burns would be unable to successfully show the admitting privileges law violates Oklahoma’s “single-subject” rule.

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This rule requires laws passed in the state to deal with one discreet issue. SB 1848 deals with six distinct provisions that have no common theme or purpose, according to the plaintiffs.

Burns also claims the law is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority because it effectively grants hospital boards the power to determine who can and cannot provide abortions in the state.

Graves also ruled that Burns did not have standing to challenge the rule on behalf of patients who would likely face delays in accessing abortions should Burns be forced to close his clinic doors.

Those delays, the attorneys argue, will increase the cost and risk associated with the procedure. “Delay will also mean that some women do not get appointments in time to qualify for a medication abortion,” the brief says. “Other women may progress beyond the time when legal second trimester abortion is available in Oklahoma.”

The motion asks that the Oklahoma Supreme Court put the law on hold while a trial on its constitutionality proceeds.

“As Dr. Burns established, however, S.B. 1848 offends the rights of all Oklahoma citizens by violating the Oklahoma’s Constitution’s single-subject mandate, targeting physicians who provide abortion and their patients for discriminatory treatment and unconstitutionally delegating legislative authority to unelected officials,” Burns’ lawyers argued in their brief. “The Act would deprive Dr. Burns of his livelihood and deprive all women throughout the state of Oklahoma of access to safe medical care.”

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